May 21 2013 Latest news:
Josh Pettitt, Reporter
Thursday, December 6, 2012
A former politician and acclaimed author from Hampstead finished £300 better off after his brush with a gang of conmen who looted his exclusive bank account.
William Hopper, an ex-Member of the European Parliament (MEP), among the latest to fall foul of a complex fraud which has blighted the borough and cost banks millions of pounds.
But unlike his fellow victims, the 83-year-old enjoyed two trips to the theatre and one sortie to the opera at the conmen’s expense.
The swindlers plundered £1,000 from the former MEP’s account at Coutts private bank – but not before handing over £300 in cash to Mr Hopper to cover his immediate spending.
The former investment banker, who has lived in Flask Walk for 20 years, said: “I ended up £300 better off and humorously hoping the same thing would happen to me every day.
“I decided it was not taxable since I was the beneficiary of a fraud and it would not come under income tax.
“Although I was embarrassed at falling for it, I ended up £300 up which cheered me up no end.”
The author, who is currently penning a sequel to his highly-respected work The Puritan Gift, also recovered the £1,000 from his bank.
More than 100 elderly and vulnerable people across Camden have been hit by the scam losing hundreds of thousands of pounds, with a 92-year-old and a cerebral palsy sufferer among the victims.
The conmen contact their targets masquerading as police or bank fraud investigators, alerting them to an alleged fraud on their account.
They ask the victims to call their bank using the number on their card.But when the victims put the phone down the conmen do not hang up, leaving the line open – and then pose as bank staff, persuading the victims to reveal their PIN and other information.
The gang then send a courier to the victim’s address to collect their bank cards and empty their accounts.
Mr Hopper, who helped found the Institute of Fiscal Studies, was defrauded in September when he was persuaded to hand over his bank cards. When he called the fraudsters the following day to request some spending money, the scammers sent him a stack of 15 used £20 bank notes to spin out the confidence trick.
Mr Hopper said: “These people are intelligently evil and they use that intelligence in this acting and deceit.”
A special police unit in Camden has made dozens of arrests in relation to the fraud, but officers warn it will be a “complex crusade”.
Police recently seized a Ferrari in Camden after officers swooped on three men suspected of masterminding a similar scam worth £56,000.
Det Con Alex Stavrou said: “We have made arrests and we’re trying to link as many cases as we can to the gangs who have been lifted.”